“Justice Puno has protected us with heroism and conviction. Now it is our turn to protect him…”
(Almost) breaking news: The ANG Kapatiran Party, a small Philippine party that advocates moral, social, and political reform, has declared its support for Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who is now in the middle of a threatened impeachment.
In a formal statement, the party recognized the importance of the judiciary in the Philippine democratic system, and decries the precipitate attack on Chief Justice Puno—a sordid affair founded on hearsay—as “an attack on the independence of the judiciary and the foundations of democracy.” It likewise noted how the attack, through apparently motivated by political vengeance, coincided with the movement to amend the Constitution, to which the Supreme Court alone poses an official institutional barrier. The statement concludes by asking Congress to observe balance, fairness, and due respect in handling the matter, and by calling on the people to defend one of the staunchest defenders of their freedom.
Quoted in full, the statement of the Party goes thus:
The ANG Kapatiran Party joins all Filipinos of goodwill in condemning the malicious persecution of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, with which nothing less than the independence of the judiciary and the foundations of democracy are being attacked.
The judiciary, and the Supreme Court that stands at its summit, has a unique and critical role in the Constitutional system of the Philippines. Over the strife of parties and personalities, it stands as the impartial arbiter of interests and the institutional defender of human dignity and the rule of law.
Thus, after the end of last dictatorship, the people strengthened the mandate of the judiciary, affirming its power to prevent grave abuses of discretionary power and vesting the courts with added safeguards of its independence. Our Constitution made judicial authority, together with free elections, the vigilant arm of Philippine democracy.
Under the helm of Chief Justice Puno, the Supreme Court has discharged its duties with fortitude and excellence, protecting the people from extra-judicial violence and from the worst excesses of misgovernment. Amid an epidemic of corruption, it has become one of the last bulwarks against private and public tyranny.
In his own character and leadership, Chief Justice Puno has personified his title and manifested the moral strength that the Philippines needs to rise from corruption and inequality, which more than any material or institutional change provides its hope for authentic progress and social justice.
We are therefore deeply concerned at the unseemly haste, bereft of respect for truth and fairness, with which the enemies of Chief Justice Puno have singled him out for impeachment. Even if they have no agenda other than political vengeance, which we doubt given its coincidence with a movement to pervert the Constitution, their disregard for justice and for the role of the Supreme Court in our democracy demonstrates the selfishness of their motives.
The process of impeachment, as a part of the system of checks and balances of the Constitution, was created to protect the people from betrayal by its highest servants. Its use to attack a man of integrity and the integrity of the judiciary is a rank subversion of the will of the people. Worse, it violates the canons of reason and justice that, even before they were enshrined in law, were written by God Himself in the nature of man and society.
Now, therefore, the ANG Kapatiran Party expresses its solidarity with Chief Justice Reynato Puno as he faces his calumniators, wielding no weapon but the truth and the witness of his character.
We call on the proponents of this impeachment to cease their persecution of Chief Justice Puno, and to reconsider its effect on the moral fabric of our society and the democratic structure of our government.
We remind the Members of Congress of their duty to observe balance and fairness, and to accord to the Chief Justice and to the Supreme Court the respect due to an independent judiciary and its leaders.
Lastly, we call upon the Filipino people to defend Chief Justice Reynato Puno from the malice of his enemies, who hope to destroy our freedom by destroying one of its most zealous defenders. Throughout his life, Chief Justice Puno has protected us with heroism and conviction. Now it is our turn to protect him.
Let us not be remiss lest evil triumph, as it surely will if good men do nothing. Let us not make our generation a curse to our children, who will live according to the justice we leave behind. For this is not a contention between competing interests and privileges, but a battle in the long war between justice and tyranny, and the very soul of our nation is at stake.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer has written an informative series of articles on the controversy. Our earlier post, “Presidential Impeachment and Philippine politics“, discusses the limits of the impeachment process. For a short introduction to the ANG Kapatiran Party, please see our earlier post “To solve crisis, GMA must resign, says Kapatiran Party“; the reader may also access the websites of the Kapatiran Party (both the newer and the older) and the blog of lawyer-activist Adrian Sison.
May God bless us all.